With a variety of vistas, skill challenges, dynamic events and renown hearts, adventures in Tyria are not hard to come by. ArenaNet’s Guild Wars 2 is set in a time when the world of Tyria is mounting a defense against a curse that has been unleashed upon it. One of seven dragons currently scouring Tyria for the release of the game is Zhaitan, the undead dragon. The other dragons are to be expected in the future. Their arrivals will change the face of Tyria and also provide a great backdrop for a wonderful massive multi-player role-playing game.
With a gripping story that adds complexity and challenges to the gamer’s experience, Guild Wars 2 does not forget the details that are sought after in games of this genre. With daily achievements, a detailed crafting system, open ended combat, balanced player-versus- player scenarios and exploration activities with great rewards, Guild Wars 2 isn’t wanting for content. All of these activities were weighed and balanced over an intense five year development cycle, one made all the more intensive by a rabid fan base. The potential for disappointment was immense, but my experience after 100+ hours invested has been anything but.
As someone who has played this genre of games for over ten years, I am finally ready to hang up my spurs and settle in the world of Tyria. I do not feel the necessity to climb to the pecking order of social status in MMOS anymore. I am getting old. The days of twelve hour gaming sessions burning daylight to grind dungeons, raids, or level are gone for me. My MMO sun sets in Tyria, and I could not have picked a better place.
On your first steps into Guild Wars 2 you will create your character, choose your race and class, and then choose your story component pieces (three of them). These story choices are what create a unique story experience for each player. In a conversation with a friend who chose the same race/class combination as me I was amazed at the changes in story based off of two of the three choices. The story keeps pace with your level advancement but you do not feel tied down to force yourself to finish the story. The gain of experience in a large variety of ways does not force the gamer to play through content that they have no desire to engage. In fact, I leveled twenty levels past the level recommendation of my story quests and was still presented with a challenge when I was ready to continue the story.
The door is open for how the player can experience Guild Wars 2 .I found it very interesting when reading my guild’s forums discuss the different aspects of the game (shout-out for Strength in Honor a wonderful gaming community!). Some who have been used to a linear game in the guise of an open world were overwhelmed by the fact that there may not be traditional goals to reach in the end-game. I found it interesting that a genre which had been founded on principles of the player’s choice had been shifting to one that herds players in the same direction . This paradigm shift also separated the players into classes of players; the hardcore and the casual. Guild Wars 2 does a great job at bridging this gap and provides both types of players with the ability to enjoy the game. In truth I am sure there are complaints from both player types such as legendary weapons being near impossible to craft or lower level zones being too easy to run through and boringly repetitive. These complaints are drowned out by the amount of excitement and satisfaction that this game adds for players of this genre.
There are parts of Guild Wars 2 that leave a little to be desired. I encountered a couple of issues with clipping where my character or an enemy would fall through textures and become trapped. This was particularly frustrating when the mobs were parts of a skill challenge or event. As someone who frequently travels off the beaten path in search of honor and glory within these virtual worlds I am used to getting stuck. Normally a feature to become unstuck is available however the waypoint system allowed my character to jump right back into the action.
As time went on and the player base increased you would occasionally find an event or skill challenge in an unusable state. Whether this was due to a bug or player ignorance I could not tell. At times it was frustrating but usually the issue was fixed in a new patch or occasional hotfix. Another point of frustration that some player encountered was a rollback of the servers. This is a commonly used technique to prevent abuse of exploits and the subsequent advantage by someone over the rest of the community. They are necessary evils and yet that does not soften the blow of waking up the next day and having to deal with the loss of all progress from the night before. As I recall this only happened once for my server and I am not sure if it was localized to only my home server.
One of the new features to Guild Wars 2 is an overflow system; when an instance of a town would be a high capacity the player would be switched to an overflow and entered into a queue for the primary. This system works well with a high population server like my own. The decision to add this feature to prevent performance problems in highly populated cities is worth having to click through the pop-ups for overflow. There have been too many times in other worlds where my character was logged in a high population area and loading of the game took some time and the lag was unbearable. You should not be penalized for wanting to be in the center of where people are. This is where people congregate and flood chats with looking for group messages, trade messages, and sometimes just silly comments about npcs, stories or quests. Typically in an MMORPG these heavy populated areas are the equivalent of shopping malls. They are where people congregate when they have time to kill or are looking for some type of product or service.
The difficulty of the game was a great indicator of player skills. Exploring higher levels zones or taking part in higher level events is not impossible and even rewarding with higher payouts. The spawn rate of monster in areas were challenging and when you would push into a cave to get access to a skill point challenge your exit may be filled with enemies right after you made it to the farthest point. It was a nice choice to pay for the convenience of being teleported to the nearest waypoint for a fee, battle your way out of the cave or my personal favorite, a mad dash where I would run through the mobs and reach max range for their follow AI before they returned to their designated routes.
The scaling aspect of the game also prevents one of the notorious trends of current MMOs and that is grinding to max level then going back to steamroll all of the content you missed. In Guild Wars 2 this simply does not work as well as in other titles. The scaling down of your character to levels for areas means that you will typically only have a slightly larger advantage when your character is maxed with higher level gear. This adds more challenge with map completion where people who love to complete everything before moving on will find some very nice rewards once they have completed all activities in a map.
The leveling curve also allows for a nice relaxed play style (my preference these days when having a family and career). The stress of having to reach max level before the game “begins” was always something that caused me to desire to play at all times and reluctant to leave the computer because I am behind the curve or can’t be added into a raid team because of my gear. As mentioned above the variety of experience gain gives the player gain the power to determine how they want to progress through the game.
Crafting is one of my favorite activities in MMOs and the crafting in this game gives excellent experience rewards. At one point with a crafting experience boost my character was able to gain 2.5 levels in the 60’s purely from crafting. This is something fun. My crafting alternates can now gain level while they sit in town and craft! Another bonus to crafting is the use of a collections tab in your bank. This tab allows for the base crafting materials to be stored up to a stack of 250 in a place that can be accessed with your bank and deposited at any time from your inventory. This feature is outstanding and for a virtual hoarder like myself and prevents my mailbox from being filled with materials mailed back and forth between characters. The resource gathering ability of all characters and experience gain just further provokes the need to get to the materials in game and never worry about other players getting there before since the nodes are bound to the player game while, at the same time, existing in the same place on other maps as well.
Even after playing through a lot of the game the combat never dragged. The ability to swap weapons and have packs or elements for engineers and elementalists, respectively, never forced the zoning out of combat. The positioning also prevents the lazy player who clicks a mob and waits for its death while looking up at the television. The lack of a trinity was something I was afraid of in later levels. My tanking ability as a ranged class should be called into question but a nice combination of elite skill use, healing powers, kiting and turrets are able to provide a robust range of ways to get out of situations where mobs or elite monsters were coming after me.
The trait system opens combat even more and allows for unique combat for each build and the min/max ability for those that love cranking the numbers for dps, healing and tanking. One of the great aspects of the trait system worth mention is that at levels 20, 40 and 60 you opt to open the next tier of traits by buying manuals from your class trainer. If you make a mistake in your trait allocation you may be surprised as I was that they reset each time the next tier is unlocked. This allows for a nice change if you want to try something else the next time or even correct a mistake for free when you reach those milestones. As someone who likes to experiment with builds instead of researching and using cookie cutter ones I really appreciated this.
Since the release the community has responded well and ArenaNet has shown some exemplary customer service and devotion to the Guild Wars 2 audience by promising to fight the underworld of this genre that occurs in all big title MMOs, gold farmers, hackers, scammers and general chat trolls. These things have not gone un-noticed and people actually show their support through the use of micro-transactions. Things available for purchase from gems are bank slots, bag slots, town clothes and exp/dmg/karma boosters. The players are showing their response to a game that has no subscriptions and costs the same as a console game that averages 10-20 hours game time. Simply put, we love it and will spend the money to show it.